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UK 1968
Directed by
Fielder Cook
92 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Prudence And The Pill

The English are well known to be quite squeamish when it come to the birds-and-bees so this quintessential English comedy is unusually forward about it all in a Swingin’ Sixties kind of way. Based on a novel by Hugh Mills who also wrote the screenplay it tells the story of how four couple got themselves in the family way through misadventures with the then-novel contraceptive known as "The Pill". .

Neatly segmenting the story into three strands we start with David Niven as upper-class merchant banker, Gerald Hardcastle, who has a perfectly well-ordered but non-physical marriage with his frosty wife, Prudence (Deborah Kerr). Gerald’s sex life is reserved for his French (of course) mistress, Elizabeth (Irina Demick). Meanwhile, his middle-class brother (Robert Coote) and wife (Joyce Redman) are, on the other hand, happily if discreetly active between the sheets.  They are none too pleased however when they find their daughter, Geraldine (Judy Geeson), in bed with her boyfriend, Tony (David Dundas). That is until they learn that he is the nephew of a wealthy aristocratic dowager (Edith Evans). The working class are represented by the upper-class Hardcastle’s live-in maid (Vickery Turner) and butler (Hugh Armstrong)  All these characters (except for the dowager) are connected by The Pill making this in its day quite a controversial film.

In this respect Prudence and the Pill seems almost perverse as the bulk of it deals not with pre-marital sex amongst the young (Geraldine and her boyfriend are the only pair to be shown in bed) but the sex lives of the middle-aged (until 1968 The Pill could only be legally prescribed to married women) which are dealt with only by implication and insofar as they do not take The Pill. And this is where the comedic premise comes into play as for one reason or another each woman’s contraceptive pills are substituted with some other kind of pill. The result Is that in a riot of fecundity all the females end up in the pudding club although this also somewhat disconcerting as both Kerr (who was 47) and Redman (who was 53) look way too old to be falling pregnant and it’s not clear why if Geraldine was stealing her mother’s pills she falls pregnant,.  

Television director Fielder Cook who left the project which was completed by veteran cinematographer Ronald Neame does a serviceable job and all the performances are likeable although despite the title Deborah Kerr has little to do and she is so chilly it is difficult to see what would have attracted Keith Michell’s society doctor to her.

Although not as highly-regarded as the classic black-and-white comedies of the ‘50s and early ‘60s as low-key farce Prudence and the Pill is quiet droll in a English Zeitgeisty way




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